ALEPHROCCO

Broad-headed Snake

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Unfortunately, the broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) is now listed as endangered. Declining population numbers are most likely attributable to removal of rock faces and suitable habitat for this species, primarily due to urbanization and landscaping. Other rock-dwelling reptiles and invertebrates are without a doubt also negatively influenced by human modification of habitat. These snakes require very specific microhabitats and prefer resting in the crevices in between thin sandstone rock layers, so it has been reported that even wildlife enthusiasts flipping rocks and disrupting the habitat may pose a threat to this species that is already at risk. For these reasons, disclosure of locality and abundances are considered sensitive information.

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There are three species in the genus Hoplocephalus, the two others being H. bitorquatus and H. stephensii. They belong to the family Elapidae, a clade comprising coral snakes, cobras, mambas, and sea snakes, and Hoplocephalus is likely most closely related to tiger snakes (Notechis spp.) and rough-scaled snakes (Tropidechis carinatus). Although envenomation from this species is considered dangerous, their venom is not as potent as other sympatric elapids such as brown snakes (Pseudonaja textilis), red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus), and death adders (Acanthophis antarcticus). Adult broad-headed snakes can attain lengths of over 60 cm, but this juvenile was no more than 30 cm. When threatened, they raise and flatten the head (hence, where they get their common name), assuming an S-shaped upright posture. Broad-headed snakes are usually easily triggered into defensive behavior. When I found this individual, it initially assumed its threat pose and struck a few times before calming down and slithering around cautiously. Broad-headed snakes resemble diamond pythons (Morelia spilota spilota) in coloration, but they are drastically different in morphology and behavior.

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